11/02/2007 12:00AM

Plaintiffs awarded one-fifth of Curlin

EmailA Kentucky judge ruled late on Thursday that the plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit against two minority owners of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Curlin were entitled to the owners' 20 percent interest in the Horse of the Year candidate.

The ruling, issued by Boone County Circuit Court Judge William Wehr, gives the 418 plaintiffs in the lawsuit control over Tandy LLC, a company owned by Lexington, Ky., attorneys Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion. Tandy owns Midnight Cry Stable, the stable name for Cunningham and Gallion and the owner of the one-fifth share in the horse. The other owners are Jess Jackson's Stonerside Stable, Satish Sanan's Padua Stable, and George Bolton.

Cunningham, Gallion, and a third lawyer, Melbourne Mills Jr., are in jail awaiting a criminal trial on charges that they misappropriated tens of millions of dollars in a $200 million settlement with the maker of the diet-drug combination phen-fen. The settlement was reached in 2001.

Angela Ford, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said that her clients wished to sell their interest in the horse, and that Curlin's other partners have also decided to sell. Curlin's victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic has made him a heavy favorite to be voted Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old colt.

"Everyone has agreed to sell, but there's no agreement yet on whether that will be done by a private sale or at public auction," Ford said.

An attorney for Jackson, Kevin McGee, declined to comment on Friday. Officials for Padua Stable were not available for comment on Friday morning.

Gallion and Cunningham bought Curlin as a yearling for $57,000 at public auction. They sold 80 percent of the horse to the other partners early this year for $3.5 million.

Ford said that the ruling will also entitle the plaintiffs to Midnight Cry's portion of Curlin's earnings. Curlin's share of the Classic purse was $2.7 million.

Pamela Blatz-Murff, Breeders' Cup's director of racing, said that the checks for purse earnings have not yet been issued to the owners of Breeders' Cup horses, in part because Breeders' Cup was waiting for the results of drug tests on all the finishers. (The results - no horse tested positive, Blatz-Murff said - arrived on Friday.)

Breeders' Cup issues only one check on behalf of each horse entitled to a share of the purse, and the owners of the horse are responsible for dividing up the shares based on the structure of the partnership, Blatz-Murff said.